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Chord Melody Construction - Part 1

The Basics of Making A Solo Guitar Arrangement

Arranging is a form of composition. A Chord Melody is an arrangement for "One" guitar. It can become difficult to find a Chord Melody arrangement for a certain song at your particular level of playing (whatever that may be).

Therefore, having the skills to create your own Chord Melody arrangements can be very useful. Part #1 will focus on the basic essentials of creating a Chord Melody arrangement. For some of you it will be very easy, and for others very interesting. The future lessons will dive deeper into more complicated material.

Today we will create a simple Chord Melody using the song "Amazing Grace". Below is what we call a "lead sheet". It contains the Melody (also in TAB for the non-readers), and Chord Symbols located where the chord changes happen within the song.

Take a listen to the mp3 of me playing the Amazing Grace melody

Below are the Chord Fingerings:

Your next trick is to put the bass and the melody together. In this song, we will add a bass note at the beginning of each measure. In most cases, bass notes need to change and be played at the point of a chord change. The most obvious note to use is the root of the chord (e.g. a "C" chord would have a "C" note for the bass) This is not always necessary, but a good rule of thumb when starting to create Chord Melodies. Below is the revised version with the bass note added.

Listen to me play Amazing Grace with Bass and Melody

After you've been able to assemble a melody and bass line together, it is time to try and add some harmony to the song. It is a good idea to have access to a chord diagram, book, or online chord finder.

I personally studied chord construction (this is also a good idea!) in order to construct chord inversions (fingerings) that I need. This basic song obviously doesn't need it, but as you move on to more advanced pieces it is necessary.

Below I added notes from the chord that I could pluck at the same time I played the melody and bass together. This is the fundamental start for harmonizing your song.

You can add or delete harmony notes. You can add extra notes to accent your melody or bass line. This lesson is a "starter lesson" in the process of arranging a Chord Melody. I hope you now have a general understanding of what a Chord Melody is. Future lessons will focus on more advanced embellishments to your Chord Melody.

Listen to the mp3 of me playing: Amazing Grace with Melody, Bass, and Harmony = Chord Melody


About the Author
Peter has been a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area and Monterey Bay Area for the last 20 years. He played for Recording Studios, Big Bands, Top Forty Bands, Blues Bands, R&B Bands, Jazz Bands, Rock Bands, and Solo Guitar Instrumental Jazz. Now that he lives in Florida, he has concentrated on Solo Instrumental Guitar, and Guitar Education. For more about Peter check out his website at www.petersimms.com

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